Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Truth About Search Engine Optimization

The Importance of Being Online

Did You Know? Right now, over 81% of people first search online before making a purchase vs using yellow pages, newspapers, traditional “offline” methods.

Did You Also Know? – 60% of traffic that comes to the websites is from searches-From people typing in what they are looking for in Google, Yahoo & MSN/Bing. Now, if your website is not on the first page of the search engine results, then unfortunately you are nowhere. So knowing that, I am sure you would like to know how to achieve first page search results…and it begins with proper SEO strategies.

Let’s get started!

First things first!

“A little bit of information is a dangerous thing”

Well the same holds true for too much information when it comes to SEO or Search Engine Optimization. When you are taught how to drive, was it necessary for you to have an understanding of the combustion engine, correct valve timing or be able to rebuild a transmission?

Of course not!

You simply needed the facts of getting your car going safely and smoothly down the road to your destination. Otherwise you will never get out of the driveway or be too overwhelmed and never learn to drive…never achieving your desired results.

Marketing Lesson #1 “You cannot steer a parked car!”

Unfortunately there is a lot of miss information that seems to be right in line with what people are trying to sell you online today. Imagine that?
The three reasons for this are simple:

  1. SEO Companies, Gurus and Consultants want you to believe that only their big brains, experience and magic wands can make your site optimized and that little old you has NO chance, so do not bother and pay us lots of money.
  2. Pretend Gurus and Consultants learn a few tricks and sell their wares unscrupulously all over the web for cheap leaving you with a crappy e-book and no results.
  3. Lastly, there are the true webmasters out there who take On-Page optimization well beyond where it needs to go. (in my humble & profitable opinion) If you don’t believe me, go ahead and buy one of those 200 page e-books that expect you to have degree from M.I.T. and a full working knowledge of website coding. I would rather eat glass…I know this because I have read not one of these, but dozens before seeing the light.

In other words, they tend to try and paint the Mona Lisa within every site but forget to invite anyone to the museum. I.E. All tech and no marketing. Remember, we did talk about the importance of getting the car moving didn’t we?

Dispelling the Myths of Search Engine Optimization

  • PPC or paid advertising is much cheaper and faster. WRONG. Paid advertising is only as good as long as you are paying for it, where On-Page optimization is a onetime set up. Natural Search Traffic is still 60% of all traffic & you will pay more per click in advertising if your site is NOT optimized.
  • SEO results take months, if not years, to achieve. WRONG. In fact, you can expect immediate results within a few days. Nobody has the time or patience to wait these days…
  • Optimal SEO results can only be achieved by an SEO expert. WRONG. No technical knowledge or SEO expertise is needed to achieve major success when you use the right SEO Strategies.
  • Hundreds of links are needed before I can start to see significant results. WRONG. Have you ever heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder”? You can maximize your results with very little linking.
  • The Google algorithm is complicated and takes over 100 factors into consideration. It’s impossible to achieve maximum SEO results without targeting them all. WRONG. There are key areas that have the greatest bearing and weighting over search engine results. In fact, these key areas make up the majority of the search algorithm.
  • SEO software yields the best results. WRONG. Simply put, if you know the key areas to target, you’ll outperform any SEO program EVERY time. It’s not a complicated process if you know what you’re doing. (famous last words)

What is SEO All About Then?

All right, you’ve been patient. Here are the essentials of what you need to know about WHAT Search Engine Optimization is all about and then I’ll get to the “HOW TO’s” in just a minute. Let’s walk before sprinting into uncharted territory.

OK so here’s you first curve ball… there are two kinds of Search Engine Optimization! What? Who knew? Well I did and now so do you.

There is “ON PAGE” SEO and “OFF PAGE” SEO.

On-Page SEO is the method of configuring your website’s size, layout, text, photos and videos so that they are easy to find by the search engines when someone is searching for them online.

Off-Page SEO happens outside of the website. It is the method of distributing valuable and relevant content about your products and services onto the internet in the form of blog posts, videos, articles, forums, podcasts etc. that all point back to your website to help raise its rank in the search engines as well as drive traffic.

Now there is a middle man (more like a Judge) in the process and that is the search engines themselves like Google, Yahoo & Bing/MSN. They go around creeping and crawling around the internet and index or rank your website based on their own formulas known as algorithms.

No one knows the exact formulas (except those web geeks at Google, but they’re not talking) but we have established some definite Do’s & Don’ts when it comes to optimizing your website. The other thing to understand is that the Google’s & Yahoo’s use both On-Page & Off-Page optimization when ranking your website. For now, we’ll concentrate on the On-site SEO which is the foundation for all other web marketing anyway.

Even paid web traffic from ads will cost you less with an optimized website because the search engines will reward you for playing by their rules…And simply the one theme that governs the rules of the search engines is to protect the consumer.

The Search Engines primary job is to bring the most RELEVANT results (websites, videos, articles etc.) to the consumer or person doing the search based on the search term they type in. For example: If you were to Search for “Snake Poison Antidote” on Google, you would be less than pleased and understandably angry if it pulled up websites on snakeskin handbags and boots. You get the idea.

Getting Started with SEO Strategies

  1. KEYWORDS: Prior to the SEO (or the process of correctly placing the right search engine friendly elements on your site) Optimization really begins with understanding the search terms people are using to look for products and services in the first place. These search terms are commonly known as “Keywords”. Proper Keyword research is where most people (even seasoned marketers) fail before they even get started. Fortunately there are plenty of free and paid tools you can be using in no time to pick out the best terms to optimize your site with.
  2. PLACEMENT: After you have thoroughly done your keyword research, it is time to strategically place them in all the elements* of your site (Header, Title, Description, Meta Tags, Navigation Links, Images, H1, H2, H3 tags, Alt Tags, Body etc.) to effectively have Google and the others to index or take account of all of them to be able to rank your site’s relevance for those keywords.

*Note: All of these “elements” are simply fields easily accessible to fill in on most commonly used website platforms.

Ok, that’s it!

It can’t be.

Yes it can! Sort of…

Like I said there are much geekier aspects of on-page optimization which includes things like which type of site structures to use, frames, types of scripts etc. However, with the advancement of template driven and WYSIWYG* sites, many of these aspects are already pre-coded for optimization or ease of readability for those Search Engines out there doing their creeping and crawling thing…also known as indexing.

*WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)- An interface that provides the user with the ability to point and click to insert objects, images & text into most sites today.

So with Keyword Research and proper Placement in your site are the broad strokes of On-Page Search Engine Optimization. However, “How” to do the right and profitable Keyword Research for your niche and “How” to place them properly in all the elements of your sites is where you earn your stripes.

Local Search Engine Optimization Tips

Search engine marketing needs a new local search engine optimization feature to enlist better Google, Yahoo and Bing results. Search marketing optimization services have changed priority with Google’s places local search optimization causing many former page one websites to drop. This local marketing opportunity means that search marketing can be achieved by using better effective local search engine optimization allowing for lesser ranking websites to be seen on many page results. Google local places search engine marketing takes priority of websites using local optimization and address optimization. The if your business is closer to the pointer of Google maps it could mean higher ranking for your website. Social media marketing, directory, review results. A sample of local search indexing, local social media sites is below.

  1. Yelp
  2. CitySearch
  3. InsiderPages
  4. YahooLocal
  5. DealerRater
  6. JudysBook
  7. TripAdvisor
  8. Edmunds
  9. Zagats.com
  10. OpenTable

Also

  1. UrbanSpoon
  2. DemandForce
  3. Kudzu
  4. Yellowbot
  5. CityVoter
  6. DexKnows
  7. SuperPages
  8. MenuPages
  9. LilaGuide
  10. Vitals.com

Search engine marketing is based on link structure or link popularity with links coming from outside sources. Local search engine marketing now relies more on local social media links to rank websites and local social media. Social media marketing can utilize local marketing with Facebook places, Google places, Google maps and local tweets from twitter. What is the best SEO strategy? Search engine optimization and on page keywords was the former strategy and until very lately backlinks were the main focus of search engine optimization services, now a website say for “cosmetic surgeon marketing company” or “Attorney SEO company” can achieve page one results with a small amount of backlinks. Google places look at local websites yelp, yahoo local, and local listings, Google maps and local social media marketing websites as a major link to local business. Plastic surgery, lawyers, attorneys, law firms, are all viable local based business services which will benefit from local SEO.

Local search engine optimization is still best to keep a website optimized for keywords beyond local search marketing needs. SEO services will offer local listings as part of their services but many only provide the most obvious map, yahoo optimization. Social media marketing along with local search optimization has reached a point of equaling of trouncing many SEO strategies. Search engine marketing or SEM is also a candidate for local search engine marketing strategy. Search engine marketing can culminate in lead generation for professional services say attorney or doctor, plastic surgeon. These services require Local SEO to land the potential client to the website and then proceed to actually sell the services. How is this done? Client lead to client sell is a symbiotic strategy involving the services knowledge, reliability and pricing structure to lure the client to the best services possible.

If your services provides the best possible scenario for the client, sales happen. What can be a simple internet search from a potential client seeking say ” best SEO company ” and finding them on Google maps and then looking at the SEO firms reviews on yelp or a video tutorial on YouTube means the clients last stop may be the actual website yet they are already keenly interested in the vortex of experience, results and price of SEO. Local search SEO is probably the most cost effective local optimization. Competing with huge budget SEO was a severe challenge only a few months ago. Also outsourcing SEO has changed in as much as search engines can see local IP addresses and what is obviously a non American or U.S. IP address. What does this mean to SEO? It means SEO services from abroad cannot utilize local search marketing as before, it also means the social media used by outsourced SEO cannot mitigate to local indexing like a US. based IP can.

SEO in many larger cities can be adapted to local search optimization along with social media marketing, video marketing, multimedia enhancement to not only rank pages higher but to generate real client conversion and sales on the internet. Search optimization companies who do not supply video production, local search optimization and social media marketing services are at risk of leaving their clients out in the cold in terms of local leads and brand awareness. Video marketing Facebook marketing and twitter real time updates all contribute to creating user trust and awareness. Video production and informational marketing strategies sets the tone for creating authority in your field. Clients want to know who they are dealing with in important matters of legal and medical services. Video can bring real trust and brand awareness right to the clients choice of “keep watching” or ” move on” in a way this is like giving a consultation without the hassle.

If a potential client see’s your face, likes what they hear the next contact will be a strong one. If a potential customer has decided they simply do not like your face or demeanor it would be a waste of your time to consult anyway. SEO services are abound all over the internet for the search ” best SEO company” however taking into account practicality, face to face client trust and testimonials along with price structuring for almost any services we are the best choice for local search marketing, local optimization, social media marketing and SEO

What Most Search Engine Optimization

I’ve talked to hundreds, if not thousands of clients about their websites, their visitors and the vital link between their websites’ traffic and increased profitability. During these discussions, I’ve been privy to many insider stories about past experiences with previously hired search engine optimization experts and I can only wish that I documented the feedback that I’ve received over the last dozen+ years, but I had no clue that these particular conversations would have been so surprising, so revealing and so frightening that I never thought to do so. Sure would have made for a spooky and spine-chilling Halloween story… but because it wouldn’t have been fiction, it would have bordered on the line of witnessing a real-life Horror and since I haven’t bought the “Halloween chills” binder on my liability insurance I’ll save that story for another day…

Instead today I aim to teach you a thing or two about search engine optimization, and about what search engine optimization experts especially don’t want you to know. I’ll empower you so that in turn you can help yourself to succeed. If you’ve got the time to learn and to execute, you will be able to take these steps to help increase your targeted traffic and of course your revenue as a result. You may not be able to do it as fast or as effectively as a search engine optimization expert that has years of experience, but at least it’ll start increasing your revenue so that you can start to realize the value of search engine optimization services and make the decision as to when you want to invest in an experts skillset and at the same time have a better understanding of what they will be delivering.

Why am I doing this? Why reveal what SEO experts won’t tell you? Because I can! Because I am 100% confident in my abilities and because I know that it takes years to gain the skills and experience that I have, and while you are perfectly capable of performing the steps that I’ll outline, you’ll invariably spend more time and lose significantly more money than you ever thought possible. I can hear you all now “But how can I be losing money if I’m not spending?” The answer is simple, you’re losing money because your competitors continue to grow and reap the rewards while you experiment and tweak your SEO efforts in an attempt to gain higher search engine ranking.

So then… now let’s get down to the details. Please note that my article will not cover the technical instructions, if you are unfamiliar with them, you should likely seek a professional because what could be a day or two of work, is more likely to exponentiate into a week or two of work and if done wrong could do more harm than good.

What is search engine optimization?

Search engine optimization (commonly referred to as SEO) is the optimization of your website’s layout, content and connections to increase it’s ranking within search engines. Each one serves a specific purpose:

Layout

Most companies offer more than one product or service and target many different types of clients. In order to reap optimal rewards from SEO, it’s critical to market each product or service distinctly. It’s also critical to consider the motivations for purchase from each of your target demographics at the same time.

Content

After carefully considering and determining your website’s optimal layout, it’s important to ensure that each page targets the most relevant keywords based upon what that demographic is likely to use when searching for your products or services.

Connections

Connections refers to how many websites link to you. These links must be one-way links (not reciprocal) and must be of moderate to high quality (or at the very least not a website known for being a link farm or a spam haven). Consider the networking world, it’s who you know, and the same applies to websites. If a high-traffic, reputable company links to your website, it increases your “value” to search engines just like when you’re at a networking event and are introduced to a colleague by someone that holds authority and respect in the community.

Where do I start?

While I could never teach you everything in one article, here’s a quick little exercise to get you thinking, to whet your appetite and to help you determine if you want to go through the motions and try to increase your own search engine rank, or if you’d rather hire someone else to do it. There are 4 steps to do. For this example, I’ll use a local farm:

Step 1: Identify supporting information

– What are my products/services?

o Days

  • Jumping pillows
  • Pumpkin patch hayride
  • Children’s discovery barn
  • Cedar mazes
  • …etc.

o Nights

  • Haunted hayride
  • Barn of terror
  • Stalkers
  • Gathering of the Ghouls
  • …etc.

– What are my target demographics and what are their main motivations?

o Teenagers/young adults

  • Thrills, fear, dates

o Children/parents*

  • Entertainment, group activities, shows, togetherness

o Weddings

  • Unique and memorable experience, unforgettable photos, romance of the country setting

o Corporate

  • Team building, showing appreciation, marketing

* To get children to sign up, you must captivate their interest but at the same time you also must convince the parents that it’s a good idea. Marketing to children is always a two-dimensional challenge; both the child and the parent must be considered.

Step 2: Plan layout

– Determine the association of products/services to their target demographics

– Determine if you will layout your website primarily based upon products/services or target demographics.

Step 3: Plan content

– Research most searched keywords (try using Google Analytics, it’ll take some learning but it’s worth it)

– Start optimizing your content (both visible and hidden)

o Review content and revise according to target(s) based upon researched keywords (Please note: this can be challenging because you will want to retain the appeal of your copy, but at the same time will want to reap the rewards of search engine optimized text. Take your time and tread carefully, rushing this can be disastrous to the marketing value of your copy).

o Ensure that “hidden” content is optimized based upon optimal search keywords (e.g. page titles, image “alts”, link “titles”, etc.)

o Ensure that your meta tags are optimized for users (the wording used in your META tags are typically used as the description in search results, more enticing text can easily triple or quadruple targeted traffic!)

o Determine if you want to separate your content by product/service or by target audience. Outline cross-sell opportunities and ensure that they are linked together

Step 4: Plan connections

– One of the most important aspects of your search result ranking is calculated based upon who (and how) websites link to yours in order to determine your rank in search engines. One-way (non reciprocal links) are important and ensuring that the keywords used within the links are chosen carefully to help increase your rank can go a long way. On the other hand, being linked to from websites that carry negative reputations can penalize you and possibly even blacklist you from search results. Don’t hire SEO “experts” that cannot provide testimonials that you can actually verify; if they use techniques not sanctioned by search engines they can do more harm than good! Mybest advice here is to take your time, write some quality articles (that include a link or two back to your site) and post it on relevant article websites; communicate and provide value to individuals in forums that are relevant to your industry, ensuring that your forum signature always links back to your website and add your company to industry listing sites that are geographically and/or industry relevant. If you only add 5-6 links a week you’ll quickly see this exercise alone resulting in your rank increasing methodologically and as your momentum picks up you’ll be unstoppable!

So, what’s the big secret that most search engine optimization “experts” don’t want me to know?

It’s all of the above. Once you know how truly complex and how much work there is to do when optimizing a website for higher ranks in search engines, you will realize that there’s no easy way to automate this as a service. Most SEO “experts” will simply target a few keywords based upon the content that’s already on your site, the layout of your site won’t be optimized and if they offer any of the services identified in the 4th step above, they’ll post to the same websites, directories and forums each and every time they offer the service to a client. They’ve automated it to optimize their profits while keeping your cost down, at the expense of providing you a search engine optimization service that may increase your traffic but not your profits because they are not targeting your demographics appropriately.

What’s the use of that you say? Well you’re no different than the hundreds or possibly thousands of clients who’ve said that to me already. High quality search engine optimization that delivers lasting results takes time, patience and ongoing dedication but if your customers cannot find you, or they find your competitor first – what is the true cost to your business? Only you can answer this, only you can change the future of your company, be proactive and do something about your search engine ranking today. Invest a bit of time each day, believe me, it’ll pay off in rewards that are faster compounding and more consistent than investing in stocks, real estate or any other asset in the world.

Paying for Search Engine Optimization Makes Sense

SEO requires Time, Effort, & Persistence
It takes vast amounts of time, effort and persistence to successfully complete a campaign regarding search engine optimization. If you are attempting to optimize a website for a business that you own, I can assure you that your success rate will very drastically. Running a business in itself takes up large segments of your time. If you are not a seasoned professional you will spend a large portion of your time researching different search engine optimization methods and tactics. With the evolution of internet search engines the SEO industry has grown drastically. By this I mean that there are many different perspectives when it comes to optimization. With your website only being crawled every five to seven days to see if your changes had a positive or negative outcome regarding your search results. The biggest hurdle the do-it-yourself website optimizer faces is the fact results often take time to see results. The end result causes the novice optimizer to loose motivation and easier to get side tracked.

SEO Tools, Strategy & Experience
The available SEO weapons are ever-changing, but the most skilled search engine optimization experts have an effective and deadly arsenal. Some of the tools of a modern SEO include keyword research, keyword density reports, keyword competition reports, traffic reports and more. Like any other profession you are as only as good as your tools. The experienced use of SEO tools will have a mirror effect SEO campaigns. The search engine optimization expert will create SEO strategies and roadmaps to successfully market client websites. The roadmap outlines detail and milestones that need to be accomplished for a successful campaign. Having professionals on your side takes a lot of the guess work out of optimizing a site. There are many points to consider when you attempt to optimize a site alone. A few of the questions you should ask yourself is. Do I have a niche market? What does my product or service fall under? Should I optimize for local searches, national, or global? By having an experience SEO, your website can gain ranking within a short threshold. A successful campaign can result in a faster and higher Return on Investment (ROI).

SEO is Far from Easy
One of the terms greatly associated with search engine optimization is time consuming. There are a lot of hours that are invested into a successful campaign, not to mention keyword, competition research and also attempting to find a niche market. Persistence is king when it comes to optimizing any website. The great discouragements that come into play when undertaking certain SEO projects is the time it takes to see results. Sometimes weeks or even months to see the results of large efforts, it takes more than creating a website and throwing around hundreds or thousands of links. Those days of search engine optimization are gone. Today’s SEO battlefield is more about strategy, method and architecture. Search engine optimization is a form of modern day digital engineering. True optimizers stay up to date with search engine algorithm, marketing and trends which sometimes feels like a job in itself. Understanding the trends is important, although this does not compare to actual experience, skill, and best practices in order to have successful results.

Cost Effective SEO Services
Generally speaking full SEO campaigns are expensive, but affordable when compared to other traditional methods of advertising which include print advertising, broadcast advertising, etc. Compare SEO Services which come close to you initial marketing budget and needs. Do not settle for the first bidder, take a more subtle approach and compare and contrast the rates of other SEO companies and consultant’s rates. With such a competitive market for website optimization the price for service fluctuates drastically. Do your homework, and research an SEO company thoroughly before you commit, make sure to read reviews. Make sure to get free custom quotes, and negotiate the SEO rate and services until it fits your budget needs. Make sure to get a fair and honest deal, one that you are completely satisfied with.

Optimized Websites Increase Traffic
It is no business secret that having your site rank in the top 10 search results on any heavily queried search engine is very rewarding and can provide extensive traffic. The key is ranking for the right keywords, depending on the buzzwords that relate to the service or product that you are representing. Search engine optimization can excel your website for virtually any keyword of your choosing, depending on your budget. It is vital that the search optimization company that you select targets the 3 major search engines (Google, Yahoo, & Bing). By doing so you will increase your business websites traffic thus increasing the conversion rate and ultimately increasing profits.

Experience SEO Services is the Difference
Most businesses that reside online invest in professional and experienced SEO services. Why? Because it makes all the difference, a company would not advertise with a traditional company that did not get great results. So why would they follow any other module when it came to internet marketing? Take under consideration the top search results for popular keyword terms usually have professional and experienced SEO companies and consultants doing their online marketing campaigns. Having professional and experienced SEO’s working for you, your website will naturally outrank your competition using the do-it-yourself approach. It is imperative to stay ahead of the competition and it is more likely to do so with the assistance of an SEO expert.

Search Engine Optimization more Bang for your Buck
When comparing search engine optimization with other traditional methods of media advertising such as print advertising, television commercials, or radio broadcast search engine optimization is more effective for a few reasons. First and foremost optimized websites that are being displayed as search results are displayed due to a user query. This type of marketing is more effective and has a higher conversion rate because the customer is searching for the product or service. Unlike the traditional rate that bombards people with products and services and only getting a fraction of the people that actually see the advertisement. Second, Search engine optimization is considered target marketing. Unlike traditional marketing that advertises to a mass audience.

SEO Services Increases Revenue
Increasing business sales revenue has never been easier. If you have a traditional brick & mortar which sells goods, then it is highly advisable that you have an online store to promote your goods as well. By digitally putting up a store front online you can offer your product a larger customer base. Investing in professional and experienced SEO services would guarantee that you are generating the most sales through the internet as possible. Acquiring the right professional with the skill level you need can be quite rewarding, with piece of mind and monetarily.

Professional Search Engine Optimization Increases Search Ranking Quickly
A professional search engine optimization service can get your website ranked in a relatively short amount of time than attempting to go it alone. With the aid of professional and experienced search engine optimization experts, your website can rank with search engines within weeks, maybe even days.

Website should be treated like a Business
If the goal for your website is going to be part of your financial lifeblood then it is sensible to treat your website as a business and recruit professional employees to administer the optimization and other marketing methods to promote your website. Good business sense is to employ someone in your surrounding area that you can periodically meet face to face to review end result of the day to day task that will result in the first page ranking of your website. We prefer this approach because it embraces the method and uninterrupted continuation of overlooking the day to day operations of your business. Many business fail due to the do-it-yourself approach. Doing things yourself is ‘okay’ if the tasks you are performing is your profession or relates directly to your business service. Although trying to do things other than a hobby or interest such as attempting to save money can be damaging to your business. As you need to treat your website like you would treat your business and only seek professional and experienced assistance for your business needs.

Questions to Ask Your Potential Search Engine Optimization Company

Last month, I went over questions that you should ask your potential search engine optimization company regarding its tactics. That set of questions is critical, as before moving forward with any of the myriad of search engine optimization companies out there, you should always determine whether or not they will put your site at risk of penalization in the major search engines (leaving your website worse off than when your campaign started).

However, many people researching search engine optimization companies are unaware that potential penalization is even an issue – they are primarily interested in the results that the search engine optimization company can achieve. This installment of the three-part series will focus on questions to determine the competence of any search engine optimization company that you are considering. To find out whether any particular company is worthy of your trust in terms of results, consider asking the following:

“Do you require that I make changes to my website content?”

Any search engine optimization companies that answer “no” to this question are either using shady tactics or are only scratching the surface of true search engine optimization. Certainly, there are some elements that can be changed on a website that are largely transparent to the user, including title tags, meta tags, and alt tags. While making changes to these elements can create a boost in rankings, it will not give you the search engine dominance over your competitors that you desire. Remember, search engines are interested in matching content (what appears on your web pages) with search queries (the phrases that people are typing into search engines).

The problem with a search engine optimization company only manipulating the largely unseen elements is that search engines recognize that these elements are determined by the owner of the website and may not actually reflect the real content that appears on the pages. In order to perform well across the most popular engines, you must make certain that your search engine optimization company accurately addresses popular search queries within your pages. And this almost always requires changes to your content.

“Will you be adding additional pages to my website?”

If a search engine optimization company answers “no” to this question but answers “yes” to the question above, it likely means that it will be employing what I call the “shoehorn” approach to optimization. This means that the firm will try to shoehorn keyphrases into existing pages on your website, rather than expanding your website to include new content.

The trouble with this approach is that your existing pages are unlikely to directly address the search query. When search engine optimization companies shoehorn in keyphrases, they may achieve high rankings for you, but you probably won’t have many long-term visitors. For example, assume that your company makes widgets and you have an “about us” page on your site that gives a brief history of your company, as well as contact information and driving directions. If your search engine optimization company optimizes this page for “custom widget pricing,” and you subsequently achieve high rankings for the phrase, it does not necessarily mean that you will see much benefit. One can deduce from the query that people are looking for actual pricing information, not information on where your company is located or when it was founded. Another web page that directly addresses their search query is just a click of the back button away.

Adding new, informational pages to your website is a standard approach for the inclusion of quality search engine optimization phrases. Think of it this way – your search engine optimization company should not be thinking, “Where can we shoehorn this phrase in?” Search engine optimization companies should instead always be thinking, “How can we best address this query with a new page?” The difference in results can be dramatic.

“What will you be doing besides working on my site directly?”

If a prospective search engine optimization company tells you that it will only be making changes to your site itself, this means that it will not be spending any time working on your site’s link popularity. Link popularity plays a tremendous role in determining rankings in every major search engine. Simply put, sites that have a good number of quality and relevant incoming links are held in a higher regard than sites that do not. This is because a link from another site is considered a “vote” for your site – but all votes are not equal.

Quality search engine optimization companies will spend a great deal of time looking for industry-specific directories and portals where a link to your site can be added. They will also review all of your existing incoming links and make certain that the website owner has configured them in such a way as to give your site the highest chance for high search engine rankings.

“Will you be adding additional pages and targeting additional keyphrases over time?”

This is a very important question. Even search engine optimization companies that have a reputation for providing quality initial results can fall short on this, but it is one of the most important aspects involved in improving your optimization results over time.

When your campaign is kicked off, your search engine optimization company will target an initial list of phrases. Although good search engine optimization companies will rely on readily available software to determine which phrases are being searched on most often, and common sense to determine which of those phrases will bring buyers and not “tire-kickers,” it is in all honesty an educated guess.

Forward-looking search engine optimization companies treat the initial keyphrases as the “testing” phase of the campaign. They track these individual phrases and find which ones are working (bringing in the people that actually buy something or take the point of action on your site that leads to a sale). Armed with this knowledge, such search engine optimization companies will regularly expand your campaign to include phrases similar to the ones that are working the best. Without such expansions based on real data, you are merely relying on the best educated guesses from the initial campaign, and not the hard data that comes from true metrics as the campaign progresses.

“Can you give me references and case studies?”

This one seems obvious, but there are search engine optimization companies out there who claim that their clients all wish to remain anonymous, so that it is impossible to provide any specifics. This is usually a smokescreen designed to defer proof of concept. Certainly, there are businesses that hire a search engine optimization company that wish to keep it a secret, but these are generally in the minority. Forward-thinking companies generally enjoy showing off their success stories, so you should insist on seeing some real (not anonymous) case studies and talking with some references.

When dealing with references, find out how long they have been working with the search engine optimization company. If all references are less than a year old, it may mean that the company has been unable to demonstrate value over the long term, which is certainly something to consider. After all, long-term value is what you should be trying to achieve from a search engine optimization company, and search engine optimization is not a one-time endeavor.

Armed with these questions, you should be able to determine whether a certain search engine optimization company is worthy of both your time and your marketing money, or whether you instead will wind up with empty pockets and a useless site. Remember, high rankings don’t always mean good leads, and great keyphrases are not helpful unless they are used properly on your site.